Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dungeons, Dragons and Ballpits

When I was a geeky teenager with bad hair, I and some similarly afflicted chums found solace from our socially disadvantaged state by retreating into the imaginary world of Dungeons and Dragons, where all fights could be sorted out by rolling several 20-sided dice and doing an immense amount of looking stuff up in tables, and all women were well-muscled, clad in skintight leather and entirely imaginary.

One of my pals in this undertaking - in fact the one who had introduced the rest of us to the pastime - was a particularly sadistic plump boy named Lucas. Lucas had a vicious streak and often acted as Dungeonmaster - nothing to do with naughty goings on in leather underwear (fortunately, as you'd agree if you'd seen him) - but rather the person who designed the virtual dungeon which the rest of us would explore in our alter-egos as Halfkutt the Barbarian Warrior, Thruthelthrolth the Wizard and Gimni the Dwarf or some such.

"There is a door on the right. What do you want to do?" Lucas would ask neutrally.
"We'll open it!"
[Consult tables, look at graph-paper, roll dice]
"A huge spiked steel ball on a chain has swung down out of the darkness."
[We throw dice against our dexterity scores]
"Your head has been smashed to pulp, splattering your brains 20 feet down the passageway and qualifying you for a job teaching classics at Wellington!" he would announce with an evil grin.

I often wonder what happened to him. Last Friday I found out - he's designing softplay areas for small kids. It was pouring with rain, so the usual Friday session at the park that Guthlac and I enjoy was off. A quick internet search revealed an appealing-looking softplay venue not too far away, so off we went.

For those without small kids, let me briefly outline what a softplay area is - it's basically a large industrial building (usually a converted warehouse) containing a few tables, a snackbar and a massive construction made of scaffolding covered in brightly coloured vinyl padding and containing a labyrinth of walkways, slides, rope ladders, tunnels and ball-pits. The basic idea is that parents take their kids along, post them into the labyrinth and then sit down for a cup of tea until the kids escape.

Except that Guthlac - a kindly and generous boy - wanted his hapless father to share the fun experience, having failed to register that all the tunnels, passageways etc were designed to small kid scale rather than overweight middle-aged man scale.

Worming my way uncomfortably after him, I suddenly heard in my mind's ear the sepulchral voice of Lucas saying "You have attempted to squeeze between two rollers and have become trapped halfway into the Death Ballpit of Nagoth-Rha. A bevy of evil goblins disguised as small children will now pelt your bald head with brightly-coloured plastic balls while you squeal like a pig, enhancing their enjoyment considerably."

I hope he goes bankrupt.


No Good Boyo said...

I feel your pain - literally. Arianrhod has a tendency to go MIA in this dayglo Congo, and I like some latterday Marlow have to extricate her.

Bendigeidfran scorns the toddler area for Eiffel peaks designed with seven-year-olds in mind. I have had to be "helped down" from one particularly alarming precipice by the obliging staff of The Mad House while young Bendi cavorted like a gibbon above my head.

Sauti Ndogo said...

To Sauti Ndogo, reference to The Mad House calls to mind a very different type of fun-palace in his second homeland, the nature of which becomes clear by Googling: Mad House Nairobi.

The type of place to experience the famous "Nairobi Handshake"....

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

There's a place like that near where I live, but this being Belgium, there's an bar for parents, serving beer.

Gyppo Byard said...

Boyo - it is the price of modern fatherhood. Deal with it. There's a paticularly useful ointment sold in Indonesia which goes by the arresting name of "THROMBOPHOB" which helps.

Mr Ndogo - I fear to carry out that search at work. Or indeed at home on a computer shared with my wife...

Daphne - For the first time in my life, I find the idea of moving to Belgium appealing.